Realistic Vegan Shopping Tips for Beginners

Let’s make shopping vegan a little easier with these realistic vegan shopping tips. Learn to shop beyond the perimeter and all the nutrients you can find in abundance in the aisles.
This post is sponsored by Campbell’s
® Well Yes!®, but all opinions are my own and pull from my experiences when I was once a grocery store dietitian.

A bright yellow grocery bag after a successful and realistic vegan shopping trip filled with 3 vegan canned soups, apples and an avocado.

Shopping Beyond the Perimeter

One of the biggest things I was bombarded with while being influenced in the health and wellness space was this idea that you MUST shop the perimeter of the store. This was where supposedly all the healthy foods were, and anything within the aisles was painted as undesirable. While I am a big proponent of shopping the perimeter of the store for all the great fresh fruits and vegetables, we miss out on a lot of highly nutritious foods scattered throughout the grocery store. More importantly, allowing for the inclusion of foods within the aisles is something that actually helps a lot more vegans or those looking to go vegan to stay vegan.

Reasons to Shop Within the Aisle

Beyond the perimeter, there are foods that provide a great deal of nutrition that we can miss out on if we avoid the aisles completely.

  • Grains: oats, rice, barley, pastas, quinoa, flours
  • Pulses: beans, chickpeas, lentils
  • Canned Items: fruits, vegetables, beans, sauces
  • Nuts & Seeds: nut butters, seed butters, jars of nuts and seeds, ground flax seed, chia seeds, hemp seeds
  • Fortified Plant Milks: soy, almond, rice, oat, hemp, etc.
  • Spices: anything that can help make our food taste amazing and make us want to eat it

And it goes beyond this too! Think about it, if we avoid these types of foods, especially following a plant-based way of eating, we miss out on a lot of balance. And if you aren’t sure what balanced eating is for someone who is vegan or plant based, then look at my article on balancing your vegan plate.

But don’t feel that you have to just limit yourself to these types of foods. There are even more products within these aisles that have their purpose too and are meant to provide us a means of convenience and affordability. And convenience isn’t necessarily bad. As my community taught me, convenience is often necessary. We live in a fast-paced society. Some people work more than one job, have to feed more than just themselves, and some might not have any desire to be in the kitchen at all. Having a reliable and quick option can ensure people can nourish themselves and their families at their own pace. This also gives us an opportunity to expand our options and reach those looking to include more plant-based foods.

A vegan grocery haul with cans of soup, open jars of rice, mung beans and lentils, apples, avocados, grapes and a container of fresh jalapeno.

Nutrients You Can Get Within the Aisle

One of my favorite aspects of working as a dietitian was seeing vegan options expand in the aisles. Almost every week, there seemed to be something new. Probably one of the most memorable was going down the soup aisle and realizing that brands like Campbell’s® Well Yes!® soup started carrying vegan soup options. To me it was incredible that we’ve had that much of an impact in the health and wellness space. To me, it was a sign that things were changing, that companies were listening and starting to expand their offerings to provide more nutritious foods, but also to give us vegans an option too. Taking Campbell’s® Well Yes!® soup for example, their soups deliver on average 1/3 of your daily recommended vegetable servings in a flavor-packed can or convenient sipping soup. And thanks to their plant-forward ingredients, many varieties can help add beneficial fiber to your day as well. 

And this is the power of not just shopping within the aisles, but also doing our best to meet people where they are and give them the option for better nutrition. Having an abundance of different plant-based options throughout the store can make it easier to fit in nutrients like: 

  • Plant Based Protein
  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Fiber
  • Zinc
  • Iodine
  • Magnesium
  • B12

And so much more!

Staying Vegan Thanks to Convenience

Knowing the types of foods to eat is half the battle when it comes to staying vegan. Challenges like lack of time or little experience in the kitchen can make eating and staying vegan a challenge. This is where some convenience can help tremendously. So, what counts as convenience? It’s really anything that helps save a little time in the kitchen. It could include any range of the following items. 

  • Pre-chopped fruits and vegetables
  • Canned produce (think things like beans, canned vegetables, fruits, etc.)
  • Parboiled grains like rice that you might only need to heat on the stove top or microwave
  • Frozen meals 
  • Canned soups 
  • Frozen produce

An important thing to remember of all these foods is that you can obtain significant nutrition from a range of them. If pre-chopped fruits and vegetables help you eat more fruits and vegetables, then I am all on board! Grabbing a Campbell’s® Well Yes!® sipping soup for an easy snack on the go might mean you don’t have to always use an hour or more of meal prep time to get beans and vegetables into your day. Whatever you can manage and support sustainably is what you should aim for. We often do more harm by not allowing ourselves the grace to get a helping hand where we may need it.

Two sipping soup cups sitting side by side on a bright grey counter.

Reading Nutrition Labels and Ingredients as a Vegan

I know many of you reading this might be concerned about the nutritional quality of convenience meals. Here are some things to keep in mind. 

  1. Using prepared fruits and vegetables is a nutritious option. Even if they’ve been cut, canned or frozen, the nutrition quality doesn’t change as drastically as we might think. Things like canned or frozen vegetables retain a great deal of their nutrition as vegetables get packaged right at the peak of ripeness (this is the same for fruits). Also, sometimes canned vegetables like tomatoes can enhance the availability of certain nutrients like lycopene since they are cooked before being packaged.
  2. Look for fiber. This is probably the one area on the nutrition label I look at the most. If you are looking to incorporate more fiber rich foods to your day, aim for more items that have about 3 grams or more per serving listed on the label. 
  3. Don’t neglect plant protein. Plant protein helps us stay satisfied. Everyone’s protein needs will vary, so if you aren’t sure how to figure out how much you might need, it’s always a good idea to meet with a dietitian who supports your plant-based efforts. 
  4. Try not to get too hung up about every single nutrient on the label. It’s very easy to think some foods are not nutritious because one nutrient might not be in line with your goals. But remember, we do not eat one food item in isolation. We eat them together with so many other foods. What we consume most of the time matters most and we do have to look at the big picture. 

Cans of soup at the top with roasted chickpeas and roasted kale plated at the bottom of the picture and a large mug of harvest carrot and ginger soup in a wide mouth mug. This paints a picture of how important it is to use realistic vegan shopping tips to make being and staying vegan easier.

Summing It All Up

Take this one bit of advice that will do more good for you as you continue on your vegan or plant-based journey. All foods can fit, including the convenient ones. If choosing foods in the center aisles makes you eat more fruits and vegetables, if it allows you more fiber and plant-based protein for less time and money, you are doing a great job. It means that you are doing what is best for you at any given moment. And from a practical standpoint you won’t be dealing with as much food waste and manage to save money at the same time.

Use some convenient options to make your life easier. It will make you realize that you can manage staying vegan even when the times get tough. And when you do have the opportunity or desire to make food from scratch, absolutely take advantage of it. Realize that it doesn’t have to be over complicated and you can definitely take any needed shortcuts if that means you are able to properly nourish yourself. 

Hungry for more vegan information?

» Head over to my last nutrition article and learn all about balancing your vegan plate

Share your favorite realistic vegan shopping tips by tagging me on Instagram with the hashtag #plantbasedrdeats


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